Thursday, December 30, 2010

Please keep voting for Piqua Catholic! (bumped!)

Another bump!

Our school is now at 15th--five more places to go, for the $50,000 grant!

Please vote!

I posted this a few days ago...here's an update:

Piqua Catholic School (my school) is in the running for a $50,000 grant from Pepsi for a new gym floor. It would be safer for the children, would make our school even more attractive, and be a benefit to everyone who uses the gym.

Our kids put together a great video presentation, and if we generate enough votes to get the video into the top 10, by the midnight gongs of New Years--our kids win!

The "button" below will take you to the "Pepsi Refresh" site where you can see the video, and vote for it!

You do have to register (free) with email.

But wait, there's more!

You can vote again from your Facebook account.

Don't go yet, there's still more!!

And you can vote by texting! Text the message "104632" to 73774 (spells "Pepsi") to vote a third way!

That's three votes, every day!

We started this on Dec. 1--very first time we entered this competition--ranked 319 or so. We are now ranked #17! So far, we've only moved up--not back. The next seven steps are going to be progressively harder. But we're slowly doing it, so your vote can and will make a difference!

Here's the button: mash it and vote, please and thank you!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

True Grit, then and now


Yesterday, the two seminarians helping out over Christmas break and I went to see True Grit, the remake by the Coen brothers, starring Jeff Bridges in the role made famous by John Wayne.

I enjoyed it; and I am a fan of the Duke and his 1969 performance, for which he won his only Oscar. I was both interested in the new version, as well as how the seminarians, younger than I, saw it.

They weren't familiar with John Wayne's performance, so they didn't make that comparison. While they enjoyed the movie, they were less taken with it than I, whatever that means.

We all liked Jeff Bridges; he really is a solid actor, someone I always seem to enjoy. He did a great job, and I can't argue with the reviewers who said he out-did John Wayne.

To Mr. Bridge's credit, he paid respect to Wayne, saying he wasn't going to try to fill the Duke's boots. That was classy, and takes nothing away from Bridges.

But I was struck by comments from the Coen brothers, who have made many fine films (I think "Brother, Who Art Thou?" is one most would remember, but they've made a slew of well-regarded films); they were dismissive (I thought) of Wayne's version of the film, trying to claim they weren't doing a remake. Well, you are; deal with it. If you don't like being compared, don't do a remake.

Maybe the Coen brothers didn't really mean to give John Wayne and his film the back of the hand, but that's how they came across to me, saying in an Associated Press interview,

"I'm not even sure if John Wayne is more of an icon to us and less and less of an icon as the demographic gets younger and toward people who actually go to the movies now," said Ethan Coen, 53.

"That's really true," said Joel Coen, 56. "There are people I mention the movie to who are not that much younger than we are, the next generation, and they go, 'Yeah, I'm aware of that vaguely. That title sounds familiar. I have no idea what it is. What is it?' "

(Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/thingstodo/movies/articles/2010/12/16/20101216coen-brothers-true-grit-john-wayne.html#ixzz19XLEKiY9)

Here's how the Daily Beast reported it:

As for the earlier film version of the novel—which came out in 1969 and is most famous for winning John Wayne his first and only Academy Award—they didn’t bother to re-watch it, having seen it years ago when they were kids.

“It’s weird,” Joel said, in an interview held in one of the hotel’s suites earlier in the day, where his tall, wiry frame was sprawled out on a sofa, one long leg propped up on a coffee table. With his thick-framed glasses, graying beard, and wild, shaggy hair, he looked like a professor on his coffee break. “I remember a couple points in production, actually saying, ‘You know, I should rent the movie and see it.’ And I just never got around to it. It’s really funny. It sounds unbelievable, but I just didn’t get around to it.”

“Yeah,” chimed in Ethan, the quieter of the two, who seems more like a grad student, with short, curly hair, and less prominent spectacles, “We just weren’t interested enough.”

Maybe it's just me, but I think, show some class, be generous, and tip your hat to those who went before you.

I'd read their comments at the Daily Beast, but realizing it was just one interview, I did a search, and found the AP item I also quoted, along with Bridge's more generous remarks.

Then I found a review by the New York Times, which made me laugh because of its obvious, mean-spirited axe-grinding and admitted score-settling: "Maybe the picture will also settle some old business in the film world," referring to disagreements, in 1969, about Wayne meriting his Oscar. The Times dredges up producer Robert Evans to say,

“It was a token Oscar,” said the producer Robert Evans when queried this week about the best-actor trophy that went to Wayne on April 7, 1970. Mr. Evans was head of production at Paramount at the time, but while Paramount released “True Grit,” it was produced independently by Hal B. Wallis, and Mr. Evans reckons his own creative input to have been “zero.” (He does say he was happy with the film.)

Gee, no hint of any score-settling there!

The Times also points out,

It was also the year of countercultural statements like “Easy Rider,” “Medium Cool,” “Alice’s Restaurant,” “The Sterile Cuckoo” and “If”; the European flair of “Stolen Kisses” and “Z”; and the retro sophistication of “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?,” “The Wild Bunch” and “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”

In the face of all that, Paramount made what many saw as a clumsy attempt to position “True Grit” as part of the revolution. One program for an early studio screening, now preserved at the library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, called it a “Brand New Brand of American Frontier Story."

The Times' article goes like that, finding more reasons to compare Wayne and his film unfavorably. The funny thing is, of the films just mentioned, how many are remembered? Some, deservedly so. Apparently, Wayne's "True Grit" doesn't deserve such company.

One wonders why the Times--or anyone still around from those Hollywood days--would feel the need, in promoting the new "True Grit," to drag Wayne through the dirt to do so. Then one reads the following:

By the time the Oscar was awarded, Wayne was being described as a “sentimental favorite.”

But other film devotees were less charmed, particularly when they viewed “True Grit” through the filter of Vietnam-era politics and Wayne’s conservative principles — which he had said were illustrated by a scene in which Cogburn shoots a rat after demonstrating the futility of trying to treat it under due process of law. (The new film has no such moment.)

Writing in The New Yorker, Penelope Gilliatt complained of the movie’s “very right-wing and authoritarian tang.” She was particularly put off by the frontier stoicism, which she described as “near-Fascist admiration for a simplified physical endurance of pain.

Heh. It's been 40 years, and the Times, and the cultural elites to whom they cater, and for whom they speak, still resent the h*** out of John Wayne and all he stands for. So, naturally, they drag out his corpse so they can give it a few kicks, saying all the while, "Wayne? Who? No one anyone remembers!"

Heh. Yeah, right.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

After Midnight Mass

It takes me awhile to settle down after Midnight Mass--my favorite Mass of the year.

The choir was awesome again this year. And--thanks to the presence of our parish's seminarian, which meant he could explain things to the other servers--I was able to sit and enjoy the music before Mass. How wonderful! The folks who decorated both churches did a splendid job as usual.

I wore my biretta for Mass--I wear it once a year at Mass, for Midnight Mass--and that always generates some interest. Midnight Mass of course is an excellent opportunity for lots of chanting and incense; almost the entire Mass was chanted, including the Gospel and the Roman Canon--as well as the Christmas proclamation, which I chanted at the beginning of Mass.

After Mass, folks stayed and visited; which is always a good sign, don't you think? Eventually, we locked up church--I left the Christmas lights on so church will be a bit more cheerful in the morning. Then back home.

On Christmas Eve, I always put on all the lights in the rectory; so after Midnight Mass, I came back and turned them off. I had a snack, and looked at the tree for a bit. Now I'm about to head to bed.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Not what you expect (Christmas Vigil homily)

What we heard just now in that long Gospel,
in that long list of names, is a family tree.

It is Jesus’s family tree--at least the part of it
that goes back to Abraham.

I am sure you wonder why we read that.
It’s long and seems to go on forever.

Well, maybe one reason we read it
is because it reminds us of what it was like
for God’s People, waiting for the Messiah:
the years went by, turning into centuries.
When will the Savior come?

Maybe you’ve waited a long time
for God to answer a prayer.

Maybe you are still waiting. When will he come?

Remember also that when the King came,
it wasn’t what folks expected.

The answer you look for to a prayer
may not be what you expect.

As you can imagine, so many times
I am visiting people in the hospital.
Or else people come to me and they are sick.
They are afraid.
They are begging God to answer their prayers.

Now--here’s something you may not know.
I didn’t know it until I became a priest.

When someone is sick, and he or she is praying,
do you know what they are often praying for?

For their own healing, of course; and for strength.

But a lot of times, they are praying for others:
that their family will be OK.

And I can tell you, that prayer gets answered!

In those times, there is a lot of healing that happens--
but not always what folks expect.

And what I have witnessed very often
is that folks facing such troubles
show me a peace I cannot imagine;
they shine with a light
that does not come from this earth!

Where does that come from?
It is the Lord--coming in silence and surprise,
when things seem so dark.

Let me mention something else about that Gospel--
that Family Tree. It involves some of the names.

We don’t know those names--maybe we recognize a few.
But for God’s People in Jesus’ time,
they would have known more of them.

And if the younger members of the family didn’t know,
the older ones would tell them:


“Abraham…he was called from a foreign country.
He had a child--God gave him that child.”
“Perez and Zerah…well, that was a scandal…”
“Rahab--she was a prostitute! Who let her in?”
“Ruth--she was a stranger--but God welcomed her…”
“David was the great king--we had such high hopes for Solomon…
but then it all went south…”

“The Exile--we thought we were finished then--no hope…”

And then, when that long list of names
maybe was about to put us to sleep, we heard…
“Jacob…Joseph…Joseph?…Mary! JESUS!”


He’s here! He’s come at last! God is with us!
It was a long wait, but God came.
God became part of our family;
he was born into our Family Tree, with all its bad apples!

Notice where God was born: in a barn, where animals lived.
Joseph and Mary would have made it
as clean as they could--but it was such a poor place.

God did not complain.
God never complains when we invite him into our hearts.

The moment God arrived in that stable,
it became the Throne of Heaven.
The moment Jesus is given a place in our hearts
that’s what happens there, too.

One more detail from our Christmas scene:
the shepherds.

They were told by the angels, go see!
They just happened
to be in the right place at the right time.

But you have to wonder, what became of them?
Did they just go back to their lives before?
Did they say, “well, that was something?” and that was it?
Or did that night change them? Here you are--
how did you happen to be here tonight?

Whatever the reason,
you, too are in the right place at the right time.

Oh, sure, it’s crowded. It’s noisy.

When those shepherds came around,
they were probably tired, hungry, maybe cynical.
Maybe they expected something a lot more impressive.

It’s just possible some of those shepherds went away,
Thinking of the cold, of their obligations--
and they missed it.

How about you?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Where the Christmas Tree came from

By the way, you do know where the Christmas Tree comes from? Many seem not to.

The Christmas Tree originated in Germany, in the "Middle Ages" (dumb name, says a lot about the mindset of those who coined it). It was part of the celebration of a particular day--but not Christmas.

A little known fact: every saint, Old or New Testament, has a day on the Church calendar, known officially as the "Roman Martyrology." That includes the patriarchs; including Adam and Eve. Guess what day is Adam & Eve's day? December 24.

And back in the day, communities would have plays on particular feast days, both to teach the faith and for fun. So in Germany, they would have a "mystery play" on December 24, to tell the story of Adam and Eve and what happened in Paradise, so long ago.

So let's go back in time; and the mayor of the town puts you in charge of getting the props needed for the play. "Vat do I need?" "Ein tree, dumbkopf! Schnell!" What sort of tree are you likely to find in late December--in Germany--that's not barren? Why, a fir tree of course.

"Hier ist ein tree!" "Gut, gut! Now, get zome fruiten for das tree!"

"Fruiten? In Dezember? Ach du lieber!"*

What fruit might you find in Germany in December? Well, nothing on trees, of course, but maybe in a basement? How about apples? In Latin--the Scriptures were in Latin then--the word for "bad" (as in "the tree of the knowledge of good and bad") is "malum"; and the word for apples, is "malum."

I'm guessing about why they used apples, but we do know that they did. Also, the decorated the tree with disks of bread--recalling the Eucharist; because of course there was another tree in the Garden, the Tree of Life, with it's own fruit; and those good old Germans understood that the Eucharist is the food that enables us to live forever.

Anyway, this play was performed for centuries in towns in Germany. At some point the plays got out of hand--hmm, a play about Adam and Eve, with forbidden fruit? How could anyone take that the wrong way? So the Church called a halt to the plays. But folks liked the "Paradise Trees" so they continued setting them up--at home.

Along the way, glass ornaments were added, as were cookies. People still put cookies on trees, as well as fruit--either real fruit (cranberries anyone) or ornaments shaped like fruit. I have some apple-shaped ornaments I bought years ago, before I even knew about the actual origins of the tree. Candles were added, then of course, in the 20th Century, lights.

Most people tell me they never knew this; I didn't, either, till a couple of years ago when I went searching information about the Christmas Tree. It's been awhile since I tracked all this down, so if you ask me for a source, the best I can offer from memory is the Encyclopedia Britannica.

(So, by the way, you can forget about all that guff about the tree being "pagan." The Christmas Tree is no more "pagan" than the cross.)

Anyway, when you enjoy looking at your Christmas Tree, think of the passage from Revelation, that describes the New Jerusalem, the City of God, with no sun or moon, because the Lamb is its light; and in the center, along the River of Life, is the Tree of Life, giving twelve kinds of fruit all twelve months of the year.

* Apologies to those who actually speak German.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'Mary Saves'

The past few days I've been reflecting on Mary's role in Christ's plan of salvation--and the idea I've been turning over in my head is expressed in the headline: "Mary saves." Now, before you go apoplectic, let me be clear what I mean: it is Jesus who saves, without qualification; but our Lord has many collaborators in the work of salvation: he chose the Apostles, he founded his Church, and he calls all of us members of his Body. When we are joined to him, we are part of his work of salvation.

An example would be the angels: angels are messengers of God, and they have no other agenda but to bring God's message to humanity. So much so, that you will see in the Old Testament references to the "Angel of the Lord"; and you will see, first, someone addressing him as angel--then the text will describe a dialogue between the human and God himself. It's confusing; but one explanation would be simply this: when you are speaking to an angel who comes with God's word, you are speaking to God. If I call you on the phone, are you speaking to the phone--or to me? The answer is both. Likewise an angel.

This seems plain enough from everything our Lord said, especially in the Gospel of John, about our being one with him. It's just so breathtaking that we draw back; just as many do from the truth of the Mass and the Eucharist. Yes, he really meant it.

So what do I mean when I say--softened with quotes--"Mary saves"? I mean that Mary has been given a significant role in Christ's work of salvation. Although we must admit her role is unique in several respects, it isn't wholly so. Mary is a saint; she is a member of the Church, although the most preeminent and honored member (rightly so). That Mary received unique blessings couldn't be avoided: only one woman could be the God-bearer. But the thing about our Lady is that everything she has received she gives away; everything she has, we are meant to have too.

Our Lord's Plan was so marvelous! He planned for Mary to play many roles: she is Daughter Zion--the summation and personification of God's Beloved, who would produce a Messiah; she is the New Eve, who undoes the knot created by the first Eve's disobedience; and thus she becomes the Mother of all the living: the Eve of a New Creation. Mary continues to be a Mother, and I suppose she will, for ages unending.

And it occurred to me that our Lord was very sensible: he knew that at various points, what his people--and perhaps those he would seek to win--would need a mother. We always need Christ; but sometimes the comfort and wisdom of his Mother is just what we need. And that is who our Lord sends.

Let me give you two examples.

Recently I got called to the hospital--an emergency situation. When I arrived, the patient had been taken for a CAT scan and the husband and other members of the family were very upset. From what I could figure out, the mother had come into the hospital for a more-or-less routine procedure, and things had gone badly. When I arrived, they didn't know what was happening, and they feared the worst.

I went and found the nurse and doctor, and explained that the family absolutely wanted me to pray over her--i.e., if things went badly, they'd want me to go to her. The doctor assured me it wasn't that bad, but I think he understood the request all the same. I went back and reassured the family--and we prayed together for her. I found myself asking Mary to come and watch over this woman, and her family. As we waited, I kept asking Mary to be a comfort to the whole family.

Eventually, the woman came back--and she was still unconscious. What did that mean, the family members were asking? The doctor gave what reassurances he could--and then, after the doctor had stepped out, and the nurses had attached all the wires and so forth, I went to her bedside to pray the prayers of anointing. I imposed my hands on her head, praying silently, and then I anointed her--and I saw her eyes opening. As I finished my prayers, I mentioned it, because I didn't think the family had even seen it. The doctor came back around the point, and was very happy and encouraged the family to talk to her. Of course the scene was wild, and I stepped back out of the way. After awhile, members of the family thanked me; I answered, "Mary did it."

Here's another example, not as dramatic. Yesterday I became ill from something I ate Monday night. As the day wore on, I felt worse and worse, and very little helped (Coca Cola, Pepto Bismol, quiet). Well, these things work themselves out, of course, and after a not-very-restful night, my stomach is no longer doing flip-flops and I'm getting back to normal. But as I sat here last evening, and also during the night, I was pretty miserable and I was praying. I was asking Mary to stay with me. I am convinced she did and I certainly was glad for her watching over me.

There are times we need a mother. Mary has been given some important tasks by her son: she was sent to Tepayac to Saint Juan Diego--and as a result, the people of Mexico were won to her Son. She was sent to Fatima. She has appeared many other places; and besides all those grand assignments, she also comes and supports any number of her children in time of need.

It makes sense to me that our Lord knew that a feminine, a motherly, presence would be needed and useful in his work of salvation. I suspect we will find, when the story is told in full, that many people came to Christ first through an introduction to Mary.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

You may have to stand out (Sunday homily)

(Sorry I didn't post this earlier, this is from memory.)

I began with a story about giving a talk some time back to junior high kids about John the Baptist; and how, despite all the care I took with the talk, amidst all the many points I aimed at making, when I asked the kids what stood out, they said: Oh, yeah, he was that crazy guy who wore funny clothes and ate locusts!

So I made the point that John the Baptist stands out--and even seems odd. They thought so then and we would think so now. We might even think he's crazy--just as we would someone rushing and I crying out "fire." Crazy--unless he's right.

This role often falls to us: we have to cry out as John did, calling people to repentance and challenging our bankrupt culture.

My first example I introduced by saying, "this is delicate, I'll describe it delicately" (this, I have learned from experience, is how to introduce a sensitive topic so that folks don't worry about what their kids hear). I talked about how odd it was that we must defend the notion that marriage is a man and a woman, but we must. We risk being called bigots and haters for doing this--more and more voices are trying to silence us. "And if we make our point with bigotry, or hatred, or by demeaning anyone, then shame on us! Instead, we defend the truth without putting people down and without hate."

At one Mass I went off on a jag about this being part of a larger effort to redefine what simply being human is, of which the radical deconstruction of marriage, family is just a part. I talked about how technology was making it possible for us to reject God's design, and substitute our own. I decided at subsequent Masses to leave this out, as I didn't think I developed it so well, and it took too long.

I cannot now recall how I transitioned--i.e., I may be recounting my points out of order--but I did move to asking, "do you ever see things on tv, in ads, or hear things in music, that you find offensive? Of course you do; we all do. One of things we might think about is, do we want to do business with those people?" I cited the example of popular clothing companies Abercrombie and Hollister, saying that I was embarrassed to visit their sites, because I didn't want to look at soft-core pornography. "Parents, if you haven't seen these sites, you should; your kids have."

At some point I shifted to the alternative vision we offered. Rejecting God's plan didn't lead to life; focus on self, on pleasure, on only the present, isn't a full life. The light of eternity changes things. That's why we challenge our culture; we have something better.

I made the point that we may think no one will listen, but that's not necessarily true; there are folks who know the culture is bankrupt and they hunger for something better. We won't attract them if we represent "the culture-lite"--that's why we stand apart. At one Mass I made a further point about different ways we do that.

At two Masses I cited the example of the artwork in the Smithsonian, showing ants on a crucifix--and I said, aside from that being offensive, it makes me wonder, is that the best we can do? Our culture produced beautiful art, but it seems its behind us. Another reason why we call our culture back to Christ.

My conclusion, I think, was that in taking part in the Mass, we might pray for the courage to be John the Baptist for our time, or something like that.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Can we get the Wikileaks' deal?

Let me get this straight...

If you are a law-abiding, patriotic American, who has done nothing to harm your country; on the contrary, you are prepared to make sacrifices to help your country (example: you go along quietly with whatever security measures the government comes up with)...

You get treated like a convicted felon in a super-max prison (with invasive body searches).

If you steal and then publish the nation's secrets, the nation's diplomatic messages, which at least embarrass the United States, and more likely, cause real harm to our alliances and to our effectiveness in defeating our enemies...

You get a stern letter from the State Department.

Really? How do we citizens get that deal?

First Sunday of Advent Homily

(From memory...)

I began by pointing out something that might seem odd: Advent has begun, we're all thinking about the coming of Christmas, and yet the readings at Mass had nothing (directly) about the birth of the Lord. Instead, all the focus is on the Lord's coming at the end of time. Why might that be?

My answer was that each "coming" only makes sense in the light of the other. We needed Christ to come at Christmas in order for a happy outcome at his final coming. We celebrate his coming at Christmas because of our hope in his his final coming. Or words to that effect.

I also explained how when we say Christ will come again, we don't mean he left. I said something like, when I came over here for Mass, I left my house. As far as I know, I'm not there now! But when the Lord returned to heaven, he nonetheless remained here. So when we speak of his return, what we mean is that he will be here in the fullest sense.

I cited the example of the mountain in the first reading: being the highest, lifting up the house of God and drawing all to it. Has that happened yet? No; but it will happen.

From there I explored the mystery of how God involves us in his work. Christ could do it all on his own; he doesn't need us (in the strict sense); yet he chooses to make us part of his work. So the coming of his Kingdom involves us. We are his instruments to build up that mountain and draw all the world to God's house. We are the invitations people receive: our lives, with God's word written in them, are the invitation people need. Our goal, of course, is to be invitations that actually invite, rather than not.

Somewhere in here (I gave this homily four times, and it changed each time) I talked about the Lord's message of being awake. The message is for those who aren't awake; if we're seeking the Lord, looking for him, we're awake. So the question for us is, are we "awake"? I.e., are we aware of his presence, aware of his action in our lives?

I gave examples from my own circumstances: days when I get so busy I barely pray--"does it surprise you that that can happen to a priest? It does; has it happened to you?" And I talked about how I've prayed for God to help me in a difficult situation, only to have the situation go so smoothly, I actually forgot about what I'd asked for, only to realize it days later: that problem that I was so concerned about never happened--and I never said thank you to God for such an excellent answer to prayer!

I gave the example of our 24/7 Perpetual Exposition chapel--another way Christ is present among us, but are we awake to it? I talked about the sacrament of confession. I said, suppose I told you we had vending machines in the back of church, with a pill to regrow hair, or a pill to make us svelte--and the pills were free! How popular they would be! But we don't have that; instead we have the sacrament (I was gesturing to the confessionals) that dispenses mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace...for free! Are we awake to Christ in our midst?

And I came back to the Mass as Christ's supreme presence--the Cross made present, an explosion of grace flowing to us from the Mass, and the Eucharist. Our being awake, being open, means we change; and we become better instruments and vessels of what he is doing in our world: getting the mountain built, and getting everyone to his house. That's our job.

Anyone who heard me deliver the homily, feel free to comment or let me know if my recollection is faulty!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The six saints to be depicted in St. Boniface

After several months in which parishioners have nominated and voted on possible saints, we have six that have been chosen! One was chosen specifically by the young people of the parish, including the children in the religious education program, high school programs, and Piqua Catholic School.

Here are the six saints who will be depicted in Saint Boniface Church when the artwork is completed by next Easter:

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (Feast: Jan. 4), b. Aug. 28, 1774 in New York City to wealthy Episcopalian family. Her husband’s business failed; then he died. She became Catholic; her family disowned her. She founded first parish school, initiating Catholic school system. Founded Sisters of Charity, who serve in Piqua presently. Died Jan. 4, 1821; canonized 1975, first American-born saint. Patroness for: in-law problems; death of children and of parents; Apostleship of the Sea; opposition of church authorities; people ridiculed for piety; widows.

Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio (April 1)—along with 8 companions. At the age of 14, Jose joined a rebel military force formed to fight against the Mexican government who was persecuting the Catholic Church. He was captured in January of 1928 by government forces who ordered him to renounce his Faith in Christ. He refused. They cut his feet with machetes and forced him to walk to the town cemetery. At times they stopped him and said, “If you shout ‘Death to Christ the King’, we will spare your life.” He refused and shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long live Christ the King!). When they reached the place of execution, they bayoneted him, but he only shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” louder. This angered the commander so he and the rest of the group shot Jose with their guns. Before Jose died, he made the sign of the cross on the ground with his blood and kissed it.

Blessed Jose was the choice of those under 18.

St. Angelo (Feast: May 5), b. 1145 in Jerusalem to Jewish converts to Christianity. With his twin brother, founded first Carmelite house. Sent to evangelize Sicily, won many conversions, was martyred (stabbed to death) by a man whose incestuous relationship he denounced in 1220.

Blessed (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta (Feast: Sep. 5), b. Aug. 26, 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia to an Albanian family. Baptized Agnes; youngest of three children; active in her parish youth group; drawn to mission work. Joined Sisters of Loretto, took name of Theresa after the Little Flower, went to India to teach. Heeded God’s call to form Missionaries of Charity to serve the poorest of the poor, caring for many lying in the streets of Calcutta. She—and her order—traveled the globe. She died Sep. 5, 1997 in Calcutta. Declared blessed 2003. Patroness of World Youth Day.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus (Feast: Oct. 1), b. Jan. 1, 1873 to a middle-class family in Normandy, France. Her parents, Louis and Marie-Azelie Martin are both “blesseds”; all her sisters became nuns. Just before her 14th birthday, received vision of the child Jesus. Sought to join Carmelite order but was too young. Traveled to Rome to meet Pope Leo XIII and asked permission to join early! Made final vows at 17 at convent in Lisieux. Her “little way” of spirituality gave rise to her name, “Little Flower.” Died Sep. 30, 1897 of tuberculosis. Canonized 1925; named Doctor of the Church in 1997 and patroness of Australia, France, Russia; foreign, particularly African missions; parish missions; bodily ills, and illness; tuberculosis; AIDS patients; air crews and pilots; florists and flower-growers; loss of parents.

St. Francis of Assisi (Feast: Oct. 4), b. 1181, Assisi, Italy, to a wealthy merchant. Street brawler and sometime soldier, had conversion while a prisoner of war. He began living poverty and preaching; his family disowned him but he attracted others. In 1210, he began the Order of Friars Minor (“little brothers”), better known as Franciscans. In 1219, went to Egypt and preached to the Muslim Sultan, who allowed him to preach the Gospel there and to visit Jerusalem. Later received the wounds of Christ. Died Oct. 4, 1226. Canonized 1228. Patron against dying alone and fire; for animal welfare; birds; ecology and the environment; families; lace-, needle- and tapestry-workers; zoos. Patron of Italy.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What do North Korea and the TSA have in common?

While surfing and reading today, I came across two web sites, and after visiting the second, I saw a connection; I'll let you see for yourself.

First--this morning--I visited Time, and saw this slideshow of photos a Chinese visitor took while traveling in North Korea.

The caption on the last slide read as follows:

When the train arrived in Sinuiju Station, as usual it took a few hours of inspection. Fortunately, after the inspector had carefully examined my wife's Canon G9 camera and deleted a few images, he shouted 'good!' in Chinese, and left. Perhaps he thought we had only brought one camera. Thus, the contents of this trip home were to be saved.

Then, just a bit ago, I read this story at the Daily Caller, about a boy whose shirt gets taken off (by his father) in the course of a "pat down" at an airport. The story includes video, captured by a man standing in line some 30 feet away, and he explains what happened next:

After I finished videotaping the incident I went through the check point myself. I collected my things and went over to talk to the father and son. Before I could get to them a man in a black suit who had been talking with the other TSA officials approached me. He asked to speak to me and I obliged, wondering what was to come. He then proceeded to interrogate me about why I was videotaping the “procedures of the TSA”. I told him that I had never seen such practices before on a young child and decided to record it. The man being frustrated at this point demanded to know my plans with the video, of which I didn’t respond. Repeatedly he asked me to delete the video, hoping his mere presence could intimidate me to obey, but I refused. By this point it became obvious that he felt TSA had done something wrong and that I caught it on tape. After the interview, I left for my gate. I called my brother who told me I should put the tape on YouTube because this had been a recent hot topic in the news.

My gate was a long way off, but about 15 minutes after arriving 2 TSA agents came and sat 15 feet or so away from me. I stood up and moved so that they were in front of me and then took a picture. A 3rd and then a 4th agent came and sat down with the others. They would occasionally glance at me and talk on their walkie-talkies. I don’t know why they were there or if it was a huge coincidence but they stayed for 30-45 minutes and left just before I boarded the plan. Interesting to say the least, intimidating? Maybe a little…

No Peek, No Grope, No Fly

Like many folks, I've been reading closely the stories about the federal government's new policies and procedures regarding searching or scanning passengers before boarding airplanes. Here's what I've learned (a quick Internet search will get you all these articles and more):

> These new scanning machines take naked pictures of you. The government assures us they won't ever be stored, copied or distributed. Of course, we always trust government assurances, right?

> The alternative to a scanning machine is very intimate "pat down"--which one comical member of Congress, Sen. Claire McCaskill called "love pats": har, har. Here's what the "love pat" includes: the government agent moves his or her hands up and down your legs, arms, and torso, including your private parts and--pardon me--between your buttocks.

> Many travelers are saying "opt out" when you go to the airport. Now the alarmed TSA head, John Pistone--who said that you give up many of your rights when you buy an airline ticket (did you know that? Which rights, Mr. Pistone? Am I allowed to know? Or did I give up that right already?)--is now trying to intimidate and shame citizens into going along with the body scans. His tone: how dare someone cause other people problems?

> Perhaps you've heard of the man out west who refused the body scan; and was told, ok then we pat you down; he said, famously, "if you touch my junk, I'm going to have you arrested." That of course caused all sorts of alarm; since when do cattle talk back to the herders?

> Have you seen the photos and videos? A nun in full habit being subject to this "love pat"; terrified children who cry out, in vain, "stop touching me!" Another boy who strips off his shirt; a bladder-cancer patient who wears a bag, whose explanations and cautions are waved off; and as a result his bag is disturbed and he's covered in his own urine. "Love pat." It's for your own good, don't you know?

> The man who refused to have his junk touched was told, if he refused, he couldn't fly. He said, OK; and turned to leave. He went to get a refund on his airline ticket and left. An agent of the TSA went public with the government's intention to investigate and prosecute this threat to society and fine him up to $10,000. His "crime"? He wasn't allowed to leave. Remember, you gave up your rights when you bought that airline ticket. Oops, sorry we didn't tell you first.

> There are videos and recordings and photos; but did you know the government is confiscating them when they can? One of the rights we apparently gave up was the right to have these actions of our government open and transparent. If police pull someone over to the side of the road, they routinely record it; but the TSA curiously doesn't want anyone taking pictures of how they protect us.

Now, we're all being told that this is all regrettable, but absolutely necessary; the only alternative is fiery death! If you don't go along, you're helping the terrorists! (Remember when protest was patriotic?)

So for our benevolent overlords, I have two questions:

1. How do you explain the fact that Israel does not do this? Instead, Israel looks for people who are likely to cause trouble, rather than look for objects, even on people they know are no threat. (Did you know they were doing all this to the pilots? Did you know they confiscated nail-clippers from U.S. soldiers returning from defending our country? The country is in the best of hands.)

The Israelis have "profiles" and then conduct rapid-fire questions of those who fit the profile. As I understand it, the questions serve to smoke out liars--as common sense would dictate.

Think about this: think about this very hard: the Israeli's goal is to get the murderer, the threat, off the plane. But the current tactics of our government seem willing to the let the terrorist get on, as long as s/he's sufficiently disarmed. Which policy makes you safer?

Why can't we do what the Israelis do?

Some will claim it is too intrusive of our civil rights. No, really! Stop laughing! I'm serious! Yes, they would say that's worse than see-through-clothing "body scans" or being groped.

Others claim that what works for a tiny country won't work for us. Really? How many TSA agents do we have? How much has been invested in these machines?

I actually think this is closer to the truth--but the truth being that it's just a whole lot easier--from the viewpoint of the Overlords, our benevolent Protectors--to herd folks through scans, than it is to engage in interrogations. And the first answer, while ludicrous, is also true in this sense: our laws have been so distorted, and we have fostered so much litigation, that the fear is anything that doesn't treat everyone exactly the same, will spawn a lawsuit.

In other words, fellow cattle, they are more afraid of a lawsuit than they are bothered by groping you.

Here's my other question...

2. The government's stated purpose is to frustrate the cleverness of the terrorists in concealing explosives and weapons. OK, then; given what we're doing now, what would a clever killer do to evade these techniques? What would work?

It's not very hard to think of, even if its repulsive to most of us: they will find ways to hide their explosives inside their bodies.

If I were able to ask Ms. Napolitano, the head of the Homeland Security Agency, a series of questions, I'd ask: "have you evaluated the threat of that next step? What have you concluded? And what remedies are you considering against it?"

Because these current procedures--which are justified SOLELY because they are the only way to protect us all--will not protect us from that. Others, far more clever than I am, have said they can think of lots of ways to cause problems on an airplane, while still passing these invasive searches.

Since the government's current answer is simply to see the terrorists' escalation and raise it, by stripping away yet more of our rights and dignity, the logic of the government's thinking is yet more invasive searches. I will let you figure out what that next level of "love pat" might be like.

Well, since the government says I give up my rights when I buy an airline ticket, then I know what I'm going to do.

No body scans; no groping; no flying.

I realize I may face a situation where flying becomes necessary. But I'm going to do my best to avoid flying until this changes. If and when I have to fly, I'll decide then which form of assault on my person, by my government, is to be chosen.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Baptism during Mass

Tomorrow I have a baptism during Sunday Mass.

This doesn't happen often, so I am reviewing how to do it. It's a little tricky, because the ritual of baptism is, as it were, broken up and distributed at two or three points during the Mass; and elements of the Mass are changed: the penitential rite and Creed are omitted (because the ritual of baptism talks about cleansing from sin, and the Apostles Creed, in question form, is part of the ritual of baptism). I will need to check with the reader, musician and servers so they are prepped.

I'm always thrilled to confer the sacrament of baptism, but I honestly don't encourage doing it during Mass--but I don't refuse if that is what the family requests. As it happens, recently a parishioner asked me why not. In addition to the issues I just addressed are other concerns:

> It will make Mass longer and the homily is a bit of a challenge;

> You may say, so what if Mass is longer, folks should just go with it. Well, perhaps folks should, but they don't always. Besides, I happen to have 10:30 Mass at the other parish and it's not easy moving from the 9 am Mass to the 10:30 am Mass even in normal situations.

> The family doesn't necessarily enjoy having a baptism during Mass. Children don't always manage the hour or so of Mass and the family is usually a bit nervous about what to do, when to come forward, etc. Also they have to get the godparents and other family members there. On the other hand, when the family has a baptism after Mass, it's a lot less stressful. I always wait till everyone is ready ("Is there anyone you're still waiting for? We can wait")--but I can't hold up Sunday Mass for a late-arriving family member. If, at a Sunday afternoon baptism, one of the children has a meltdown, it's no problem just hitting the pause button--an uncle can take the child to the back of church or outside, or if its the candidate for baptism him- or herself, then we just wait a moment. Most families find it pretty awkward to have that happen in front of 200 folks, but they don't seem to mind it with 10 or 20 family members after Mass.

So why is this baptism happening during Mass? Well, the family requested me to celebrate it, which is an honor, but because of another commitment, I couldn't do it after the Noon Mass; so the only way I could do it this weekend was as part of 9 am Mass.

After that, it became necessary for me to take the 10:30 am Mass (where a couple asked me to be present, as they are celebrating 68 years of marriage).

Now, one reason I'm posting this is so that folks can see the side of priestly ministry that's not always apparent. But I have another reason.

Many folks have been told that baptisms are "supposed" to be done during Sunday Mass, or that it's somehow "better" to do it that way. The parishioner who asked me about it had, I gathered, been told that. And in answering her question--mentioning much of what I just wrote--I said I simply didn't agree with that.

Today, in preparing for this, I re-read the instructions of the Church on this subject; I thought you might be interested in what the Church actually says about this--as opposed to what some folks' preferences might be, no matter how frequently expressed:

To bring out the paschal character of baptism, it is recommended that the sacrament be celebrated during the Easter Vigil or on Sunday, when the Church commemorates the Lord's resurrection. On Sunday, baptism may be celebrated even during Mass, so that the entire community may be present and the relationship between baptism and eucharist may be clearly seen; but this should not be done too often. (Rite of Baptism for Children, paragraph 9)

Now, please take note of what that paragraph does--and does not--say:

> It is "recommended" during only one specific Mass: the Easter Vigil;
> "Or on Sunday"--i.e., on the day, nothing about being recommended during Sunday Mass;
> It is not required to take place on these occasions--i.e., it need not occur on Sunday (elsewhere the instruction does spell out that baptism is normally supposed to take place in a church or chapel, and that an ordained minister normally celebrates it--but of course in danger of death, it can be done anywhere by anyone);
> It may be celebrated "even during Mass"--i.e., it's allowed, and it does have some advantage: "so that the entire community may be present and the relationship between baptism and eucharist may be clearly seen";
> But totally absent is any language of "should," "preferred" or "recommended"; on the contrary, the one specific recommendation in this regard is, "this should not be done too often"!

If you read this paragraph differently, please let me know what you see in this that says baptisms are "supposed" to be at Mass; I'm not seeing it.

Here again is an example of where some well intentioned folks have taken an idea about the liturgy and run way beyond what the Church actually says. Another example would be those who insist you can't have baptisms, weddings or first communion during Lent (our parishes are having first communion during Lent--why? Because Easter is late and it's the least-bad option; but there's nothing that says we cannot have first communion during Lent). Or that we should take holy water away during Lent, or that sacraments should always be administered during Mass (again, the Church never says that, but many people have been told this), or else you get to any number of things that were done in the name of Vatican II, yet were never taught by Vatican II.

I am very happy to have the baptism for this family and I am honored they asked for me. It's good for me to do this once in a while and it will all work out. And I do hope all those present will realize what a wonderful thing baptism is, and what a privilege to be part of it!

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Saint Images in St. Boniface

One of the projects I've been working on at one of my parishes is a plan to include some paintings of saints in St. Boniface Church. We have a nice spot picked out for six images of saints, and for the last two months, parishioners were asked to nominate a saint or blessed to be considered. We also planned for one of the saints to be chosen by the young people of the parish--that is, under 18. So the children in the religious education program, the junior and senior high groups, and Piqua Catholic School have all been working on this as well.

The deadline--naturally enough--was All Saints Day, November 1. We received about 100 nominations from all parishioners, young and old. A committee of pastoral council members took the adults' nominations and came up with a list of 16; the principal and coordinator of religious education came up with a list of six--three of whom, interestingly, were also chosen by the adults, for a total of 19.

This weekend the adults will all vote on their top 5; the children will be voting either at Mass this weekend, at school on Monday, or one group will vote next Sunday (because they meet every other week).

I thought you might like to see who they nominated. Here they are, with some brief bios on each one. Of course, I'll let you know who the final six turn out to be.

FYI, church law allows either a saint or a blessed to be depicted in artwork in a church for the veneration of the faithful. Alas, Pope John Paul II has not yet been named a blessed, so he could not be considered as one of those to be depicted.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (Feast: Jan. 4), b. Aug. 28, 1774 in New York City to wealthy Episcopalian family. Her husband’s business failed; then he died. She became Catholic; her family disowned her. She founded first parish school, initiating Catholic school system. Founded Sisters of Charity, who serve in Piqua presently. Died Jan. 4, 1821; canonized 1975, first American-born saint. Patroness for: in-law problems; death of children and of parents; Apostleship of the Sea; opposition of church authorities; people ridiculed for piety; widows.

St. Patrick (Feast: March 17) As a boy of 14, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave. He learned the language of the Druids and Pagans who held him captive. He turned to God in prayer. When he was twenty, he had a dream telling him to escape by way of the coast so he left in the night. He was picked up by some sailors who took him home to Britain and reunited him with his family. He studied to be a priest and was later ordained a Bishop and was sent back to Ireland to spread the Gospel. He worked for 40 years converting almost all of Ireland and building many churches. One of his most notable attributes is that he used a shamrock to explain the Trinity – three persons in one God.

Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio (April 1—along with 8 companions). At the age of 14, Jose joined a rebel military force formed to fight against the Mexican government who was persecuting the Catholic Church. He was captured in January of 1928 by government forces who ordered him to renounce his Faith in Christ. He refused. They cut his feet with machetes and forced him to walk to the town cemetery. At times they stopped him and said, “If you shout ‘Death to Christ the King’, we will spare your life.” He refused and shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long live Christ the King!). When they reached the place of execution, they bayoneted him, but he only shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” louder. This angered the commander so he and the rest of the group shot Jose with their guns. Before Jose died, he made the sign of the cross on the ground with his blood and kissed it.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla (Feast: April 28), b. Oct. 4, 1922, Milan, Italy, 10th of 13 children. Active in St. Vincent de Paul Society; became surgeon. When pregnant with 4th child, doctor discovered cyst, urged abortion. Knowing the risks, she chose to bear her child, although it cost her own life; she died April 28, 1962. Canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2004. Patroness of opposition to abortion and for pregnant mothers.

St. Peregrine Laziosi (Feast: May 1), b. 1260, Forli Italy. Born wealthy, involved in politics, anti-Catholic. Received a vision of Our Lady, who sent him to join the Servite Order, became priest. Remained mostly silent and worked without sitting down for 30 years as penance for earlier life. Healed of cancer in his foot after a night of prayer. Died May 1, 1345. Canonized 1726. Patron of AIDS and cancer patients, particularly breast cancer; for those with open sores and skin diseases and all the sick.

St. Angelo (Feast: May 5), b. 1145 in Jerusalem to Jewish converts to Christianity. With his twin brother, founded first Carmelite house. Sent to evangelize Sicily, won many conversions, was martyred (stabbed to death) by a man whose incestuous relationship he denounced in 1220.

St. Joan of Arc (Feast: May 30), b. Jan. 6, 1412 in Lorraine, France. From age 13 she received visions from Saint Margaret of Antioch, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Michael the Archangel. Most of France was ruled by the English; Joan’s visions told her to find the true king and help him regain his throne. She resisted at first, but finally obeyed. She led troops and won several battles, till Charles VII was crowned. She was captured, declared a heretic in an illegal trial by a corrupt bishop; executed May 30, 1431 at Rouen. In 1456 the pope reviewed and reversed the illegal “trial.” Canonized 1920. Patroness of: France; those imprisoned; martyrs; opposition of church authorities; those ridiculed for piety; rape victims; soldiers, particularly women in the military.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (Feast: July 14), b. 1656 near present-day Auriesville, New York. Daughter of a Algonquin Christian, captured by Iroquois and was married a non-Christian Mohawk chief. Smallpox left her face scarred with impaired eyesight. Baptized in 1676 by a Jesuit missionary; shunned by her family; she traveled 200 miles to Sault Sainte Marie; there took vow of chastity. Miracles associated with her and even her grave. Died April 17, 1680; called “Lily of the Mohawks.” Beatified 1980 by Pope John Paul II. Patroness of ecology and environment; exiles; loss of parents; those ridiculed for piety.

St. Anne (Feast: July 26). Mother of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Early tradition holds that she and her husband Joachim were unable to conceive until their older years, and Mary was their only child. While Mary was conceived in the normal fashion, God protected her from the stain of Original Sin (i.e., the Immaculate Conception.) In gratitude for a child, Joachim and Anne consecrated Mary in the temple to the Lord as a child; Joseph later became her guardian. Patroness for poverty, sterility and childless people; expectant mothers; broom- and cabinet-makers; carpenters; grandparents; homemakers; horse-riders and keepers; lace-makers; lost articles; miners; old-clothes dealers; seamstresses.

St. John Marie Vianney (Feast: August 4), b. May 8, 1786 in Lyons, France. Born to a farm family, taught other family members their catechism; he struggled in his studies for the priesthood. Assigned in 1818 to a tiny parish in Ars (hence the “Cure d’Ars”), where the faith was lax. He visited parishioners, did penance for them and spent many hours hearing confessions. By 1855 there were 20,000 pilgrims each year to hear him. Died Aug. 4, 1859. Canonized 1925. Patron of priests, especially those who hear confessions.

Blessed (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta (Feast: Sep. 5), b. Aug. 26, 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia to an Albanian family. Baptized Agnes; youngest of three children; active in her parish youth group; drawn to mission work. Joined Sisters of Loretto, took name of Theresa after the Little Flower, went to India to teach. Heeded God’s call to form Missionaries of Charity to serve the poorest of the poor, caring for many lying in the streets of Calcutta. She—and her order—traveled the globe. She died Sep. 5, 1997 in Calcutta. Declared blessed 2003. Patroness of World Youth Day.

Saint (Padre) Pio of Pietrelcina (Feast: Sep. 23), b. May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Italy, baptized Francesco, son of a shepherd. Joined Capuchin Franciscans at 19; ordained a priest in 1910. While praying before the crucifix in 1918, Padre Pio received the “stigmata” (i.e., wounds of Christ in his hands), which remained till he died. Heard many confessions and read souls of those who held back. Died Sep. 23, 1968; canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002.

St. Theresa of Child Jesus (Feast: Oct. 1), b. Jan. 1, 1873 to a middle-class family in Normandy, France. Her parents, Louis and Marie-Azelie Martin are both “blesseds”; all her sisters became nuns. Just before her 14th birthday, received vision of the child Jesus. Sought to join Carmelite order but was too young. Traveled to Rome to meet Pope Leo XIII and asked permission to join early! Made final vows at 17 at convent in Lisieux. Her “little way” of spirituality gave rise to her name, “Little Flower.” Died Sep. 30, 1897 of tuberculosis. Canonized 1925; named Doctor of the Church in 1997 and patroness of Australia, France, Russia; foreign, particularly African missions; parish missions; bodily ills, and illness; tuberculosis; AIDS patients; air crews and pilots; florists and flower-growers; loss of parents.

St. Francis of Assisi (Feast: Oct. 4), b. 1181, Assisi, Italy, to a wealthy merchant. Street brawler and sometime soldier, had conversion while a prisoner of war. He began living poverty and preaching; his family disowned him but he attracted others. In 1210, he began the Order of Friars Minor (“little brothers”), better known as Franciscans. In 1219, went to Egypt and preached to the Muslim Sultan, who allowed him to preach the Gospel there and to visit Jerusalem. Later received the wounds of Christ. Died Oct. 4, 1226. Canonized 1228. Patron against dying alone and fire; for animal welfare; birds; ecology and the environment; families; lace-, needle- and tapestry-workers; zoos. Patron of Italy.

St. Mary Faustina Kowalska (Feast: Oct. 5), Aug. 25, 1905, in Glogowiec, Poland, 3rd of ten children. Attended only 3 years of school; as a teenager worked as a maid. Entered Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw. Served the other sisters; received visions and stigmata; wrote her visions in her diary despite being nearly illiterate. In the 1930s she received the message from Christ as Divine Mercy; an image known worldwide was painted from her account. Died Oct. 5, 1938; canonized 2000.

St. Jude the Apostle (Feast: Oct. 28). His background is uncertain but he is frequently identified also as Thaddeus, son of Cleophas, and a relative of Jesus. He is believed to have preached the Faith around the Holy Land, and as far as Libya, and to have been martyred about AD 65 in Beirut, Lebanon, together with the Apostle Simon. Patron of desperate situations and forgotten causes, hospitals and hospital workers.

St. Cecilia (Feast: Nov. 22), martyred in the persecutions of the 2nd or 3rd century; thus very little is known about her; but her grave in the catacombs near Rome was venerated from ancient times and her name is recalled in the First Eucharistic Prayer. Many believe she was a noblewoman who died rather than marry against her will around 230; but evidence exists to show she was martyred in Sicily around 180. The story was told she sang praises to God while being killed—hence she is the patroness of music composers and performers, makers of musical instruments, poets, martyrs.

St. Nicholas (Feast: Dec. 6) Nicholas’ parents died when he was young and left him with a wealthy inheritance. He was determined to use it to serve his community by performing works of charity. There was a man in his town that lost all of his money. He still had to support his three daughters who could not get married because of their poverty. The man felt forced into give his daughters over to be slaves. Nicholas heard this and to protect their purity, he took a bag of gold and under the cover of darkness threw it into the open window of the man’s house. It was enough for the oldest girl to get married. Nicholas did the same for the second and the third. The father recognized him the third time and gave him great thanks. St. Nicholas was a Bishop and is a celebrated figure throughout the world by both Christians and non-Christians.

St. Juan Diego (Feast: Dec. 9), b. 1474 a poor but free man in a very class-conscious society in Tlayacac, near present-day Mexico City. Baptized Juan Diego (Spanish for John James) at 50. On Dec. 9, 1531, Mary appeared to him on the hill of Tepayac; she sent him to bring to the bishop Castilian roses that mysteriously appeared on the hill to convince the bishop; when Juan opened his cloak, the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was on his cloak, and the bishop fell to his knees. These events led to the spread of Christianity throughout Central and South America; and the miraculous image can still be viewed in Mexico City, where he was canonized in 2002. Our Lady of Guadalupe is Patroness of all the Americas.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Preparing for Archbishop's Visit

Sunday, Archbishop Schnurr will return to Piqua to be the principal celebrant at Mass, marking 20 years of Eucharistic Exposition in Piqua. We have a lot to do to be ready.

Rehearsal for servers is tomorrow at 10:30 am (pray they all show up...on time!); because we have a procession, around the church, to the chapel where the Eucharist is exposed for adoration perpetually, we have a little more to rehearse so it all goes reasonably smoothly.

As this is not something we do all that often, I spent a fair amount of time yesterday and today working out the exact details, so I can explain this to the servers tomorrow. I wrote up seven pages of notes, including several color-coded charts--so that I can understand what I'm explaining, and then explain it clearly and quickly.

Along the way I thought of a few things I'd forgotten, and tomorrow, after the rehearsal, I hope to get things in good order.

If you want to come, Mass is at 2 pm, St. Boniface Church, 310 S. Downing Street, Piqua. A reception will follow!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Don't scare the kids

Hallowe'en is almost here, and there are some canards and spoofs associated with this great day that I'd like to do my part to dispel:

> Hallowe'en is a Christian festival--not something evil.

"Hallowe'en" is a contraction of hallow even, reminding that it is the eve of "All Hallows" or All Saints. The Church always designates the night before a feast as a vigil, and All Saints is no different.

Yes, there are those who choose to associate Hallowe'en with pre-Christian celebrations and rituals--the same thing is brought up in relation to Christmas and Easter, and actually could probably be done with any celebration throughout the year, but that proves nothing more than that pre-Christian religions and cultures had rituals and celebrations throughout the year; it is inevitable that Christian feasts would coincide with some of them, and someone would notice similarities.

Sometimes those similarities arise from the time of year: it is only natural that cultures would have commemorations and feasts attached to seasons, planting, harvest, life and death. Indeed, it would be very odd if--when Christianity came on the scene--that it would somehow avoid noticing the very things that pagans had noticed and incorporated into their rituals.

In this post (http://frmartinfox.blogspot.com/2008/11/all-souls-day-only-falls-on-sunday.html) I talk about the origins of trick-or-treating and costumes; short version? Neither comes from paganism, but different events in the Christian era.

> What about all the emphasis on ghouls and witches and so forth?

None of that comes from the holiday; any more than elves have any real connection to the birth of Jesus Christ. It's what happens as society takes one of our Christian days and makes of it what it will.

I don't care for a lot of the focus on dark themes associated with secular Hallowe'en, any more than I like St. Patrick's day being made about leprechauns and drunkenness; but I won't give up the day because others go the wrong way with it.

Someone in my parish--you know who you are!--points out the supreme irony of what many of our fellow Christians do with Hallowe'en: they avoid discussion of the saints, and because they don't want to delve into the dark stuff from the world, they turn it into...a harvest celebration! I.e., right back to paganism!

Instead, let's remember what Hallowe'en really is: a day to celebrate the power of Christ's grace to transform people; we celebrate the countless saints already in heaven, and we anticipate when all God's Elect will be saints united with Christ in the new Creation.

> Don't worry about your kids.

This time of year urban legends circulate, claiming one or more of the following: (a) sometimes candy is poisoned or adulterated with needles or razors; (b) children are in danger being out trick-or-treating from predators.

Here's an item from the Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304915104575572642896563902.html?mod=djemEditorialPage_h

...pointing out the dubiousness of these claims.

Here are two articles at Snopes.com, a great site for factually debunking all those urban legends and hoaxes that get wide circulation:

http://www.snopes.com/horrors/mayhem/needles.asp
http://www.snopes.com/horrors/poison/halloween.asp

If you don't care to go there, I'll summarize: they could not document a single case of deliberate poisoning of hallowe'en candy aimed at trick-or-treaters; there were very occasional accidents, and a couple of murders aimed at specific people, in which "poisoned hallowe'en candy" was the murderer's trumped up cover story. And you'll find that while there have been reports of candy with razors or needles, almost every case seems to be kids who did it themselves as a prank either to scare another child, or to prank their parents.

Of course, no one can "prove" that this has never, or never can, happen.

And, of course, whether you allow your children to go trick-or-treating is up to you.

But my thought is, let the kids have fun!

Sure, they don't have to eat all the candy. (And isn't it a shame that no one gives out apples and popcorn balls and cookies anymore? Those would seem to be healthier treats than prepackaged candy bars) But I hope parents don't promptly dump it in the garbage, that teaches terrible lessons! Better not to accept the candy; or else give it to someone who will enjoy it, or enjoy it in moderation.

And who says the kids have to wear bad costumes? Why not have your children dress up like a saint? It's not that hard, and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money, and it can spark some creativity. At one All Saints party, I suggested to a boy that he should be St. John the Apostle the next year: I told him how the Apostle John had detected poison in a cup of wine, and thus he was often shown holding a chalice with a snake emerging. So here's your St. John the Apostle costume:

1. A sheet (worn as a Greek-style tunic)
2. A cup
3. A rubber snake

He liked it. I have a feeling, with a little prompting, your kids can come up with far more clever ideas than I can!

P.S. Biretta-tip to Instapundit.com, where I saw the WSJ item I mention above.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday homily

I have no notes from yesterday's homily, just a mental outline, which I'll try to share with you here:

1. The first reading from Sirach tells us "God is a God of justice" and will answer prayers for justice "without delay." Yet look around: does it seem that justice is being accomplished "without delay"? What's missing?

2. God has, it seems, put a great deal of responsibility on us to accomplish justice. Yes, he will eventually intervene and bring total justice--but we call that the end of the world, and that means the end of our chance; in the meantime, we have a mission to seek justice.

3. We also have rights that St. Paul, in his time, would never have dreamed of. We get to choose our elected officials--the emperor, in Paul's time, was not subject to recall; and if Paul had written a letter to the "Roman Daily Call," saying the emperor had to go, that'd have been the end of Paul.

4. If we don't know how to work for justice, if we start looking for opportunities, we will find them. The examples I will mention won't exhaust the list...

5. This mission from God to seek justice is why we Catholics will never be silent about justice for the unborn (and at one or two Masses, I described the work of the Elizabeth New Life Center in Sidney, helping women who face pressure to get abortions--and asked, what about justice for women so they aren't pressured); this is why we must advocate for the poor and for those in the margins.

6. I cited and described the situation of illegal immigrants in this country, working in the shadows. No, we're not happy about the violation of immigration law; but in the meantime, migrant workers are vulnerable, because if someone cheats them, what do they do? We have to put heat on the politicians to fix this mess.

7. I described the principle of the common good; that when we look at how we vote, we don't just look out for our individual interests, but what's good for all of us. Gave the example of base closings: Wright Patterson grew because of it, and it was supposed to be good for the taxpayer; other states were unhappy, but we benefited. What if the President announced that moving Wright Patterson's operations elsewhere would be good for the taxpayer? We hope it never happens; but the decision has to be about what's good for everyone, not just about our own benefit.

8. I talked about solidarity with those outside our country; citing the example of Haiti and the cholera threat--all due to the failure of those in power there to address the damage from the earthquake adequately. Who will advocate for those poor people in Haiti? We can--by contacting our government and insisting our government keep the heat on the government in Haiti.

9. We know God seeks justice speedily; when we stand before him at our judgment, he will ask how we did. What will we say?

Friday, October 08, 2010

Fun with Saints

I thought you'd enjoy some of the fun a priest (and any of us) can have with saints...

I was just signing a baptismal certificate, in advance of a baptism I'll perform on Sunday. I love baptisms! And I try to make the occasion as special as I can. Meaning: I try to do the rite with some dignity, not being to minimalistic. My homily for a baptism always explains the meaning of the sacrament and the elements of the ritual. When there are other children present, I do involve them, either by helping me get things beforehand, or helping me by holding my book or a towel, and I ask them a question during my homily. This seems to keep them interested and also makes them less likely to "melt down"--so that makes family happy too!

Also, I sing some of the prayers, particularly the litany of the saints that concludes the petitions; and I always try to include any saints connected to the day or to the people involved.

Frequently I have no time to look up the saints ahead of time, but today I took time. From the baptismal certificate, I got:

St. Katherine
St. Ceara (Keara)
Blessed Alan
Blessed Marianus Scotus (for Scott)
St. Alice

Also, there are lots of saints attached to October 10, I chose the Prophet Daniel, as the others were not very familiar.

All those can--and will--be included in the litany.

One of the points I make in my baptism homily is the reason we pray to the saints at baptism. At baptism, we become a saint! Yes, it's true: we are saved by baptism, all sin is removed and we are enrolled in heaven. The saints rejoice as someone is added to their number.

Of course, the hard part is staying a saint--that is what our life of prayer, walking with Christ, embracing the moral life, practicing our faith, penance and conversion are all about.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Respect Life Sunday Homily

In the first reading, we heard the prophet cry out: “Violence! Ruin!”
With Habbakuk, we ask: Why?
Why can we never see the end of war?
Why are people so cruel to one another?
“Write down the vision,” the Lord answers:
“The vision still has its time” to be fulfilled: “Wait for it.”

What’s the vision? Well, it’s God’s Vision—
as opposed to the alternative, which might be called,
“Doing it our way, without God.”

Part of that Vision is not only the dignity of human life,
but also that a moral life means choices that involve sacrifice.
We Catholics seem so far out of step with the world
when we insist on protecting the unborn,
and keeping intimate acts between couples open to the gift of life—
meaning no contraception.
This is a hard sell for many, including many Catholics.

But there’s Vision at work here—wait for it…

If we go out at night, and we gaze at the stars,
are we not filled with awe?
Surely God has some design and purpose in it all.
Who can doubt this?
That Divine purpose is not only written in the stars, but even moreso in ourselves.

One reason we Catholics cannot agree
with our culture’s values about human intimacy
is because they deny or at least muddle that higher purpose.

We are made in the image and likeness of God:
and when a man and woman come together,
they are never more like God—because at that moment,
they do what only God can do: create new life.

The problem with artificial means of family planning
is they redesign God’s design.
God’s design is that a loving act is also a life-creating act.
Natural Family Planning respects this.
But the whole mindset of artificial means of family planning
is that the life-creating part of us as a problem to be overcome,
rather than a blessing to be embraced with reverence.

As a priest, I am entrusted with an awesome power: I offer the Mass.
Through this sinner that I am,
Christ makes his saving sacrifice present,
and nourishes us all with his Body and Blood.

That awesome power and gift is not mine to control or redesign.
I don’t even like to speak of it, but:
obviously I could misuse that power and gift.
I have to be under God’s authority in this or I can do a lot of harm.

Well, as human beings, the life-creating part of us
is likewise an awesome power and gift.
And likewise, we aren’t free to do with that gift just as we may please.

That’s the Vision that our world ignores.
But, wait for it, it will have it’s time.
Our world’s values—how are they working out?
Are our families better off?
Are children better off when their parents never marry?
Is society better off?

I mentioned Natural Family Planning.
One of the striking things is that while it demands more sacrifice,
it also seems to strengthen intimacy.
Divorce is far less common for those who practice NFP.

Meanwhile, we cannot ignore the direction our society has taken.
After all, who is it that must be the prophet today,
calling people back from a path of ruin, to a path of life?

This is Respect Life Sunday; and we must speak up
against the destruction of the unborn
and we must cry out that we embrace both mother and child.

And if you think I’m wrong to draw a connection here,
I would point out that another prophet Pope Paul VI,
saw this coming; in his 1968 letter
Humanae Vitae,
said that this would happen.

In 1987, yet another prophet, Pope John Paul, sounded another alarm.
Before long, “the researcher will usurp the place of God…
as the master of the destiny of others…” reducing human life
to it’s worth as a “pure and simple instrument for the advantage of others.”

Now, our tax dollars pay for research that involves the destruction of unborn children.
Even though there are alternatives that do not destroy early human life.

This isn’t just about one issue, as some say.
It’s about the Vision: who are we? Are we God’s image or not?
If not, anything goes. Why care for the poor?
Why not exploit migrant workers?
Why not torture the enemy? Why not execute criminals?
Why not push people to die when they are suffering?

The world’s vision that offered freedom ends up bringing despair.
We are nothing, and the world will better off without us.

God offers us a different Vision:
We are not only his image at our best,
but even when we’re broken and marred:
God so loves us so much that he gave his only Son.
Life is worth living because even at our worst, we are his beloved.

That’s our Vision. Wait for it. It will have its time.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Piqua Parishes Celebrate 20 years of 24-hour Adoration with visit from Archbishop & Eucharistic Conference

PIQUA—The Catholic parishes in Piqua, Saint Mary and Saint Boniface, will celebrate 20 years of providing a special gift to the community: a chapel open 24-hours a day for adoration and prayer.

The chapel, named for Saint Clare, is unique in another way. The Eucharist—the bread that Catholics believe is changed into the Body of Jesus as part of the Mass—is displayed with honor for the faithful to visit and adore.

The anniversary will be celebrated at both parishes with a week of activities.

Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr will offer Mass at St. Boniface Church Sunday, Oct. 31 at 2 p.m., joined by area clergy. At the end of the Mass, the Archbishop, carrying the Eucharist, will lead a procession from the church to the chapel to enthrone the Lord once more for the faithful to adore. A reception in the Father Angelo Caserta Center will conclude the day’s festivities.

The celebration Mass will involve choirs from both parishes and children from Piqua Catholic School.

In the week following the Mass, the Rev. Larry Villone, Missionary of the Blessed Sacrament, will conduct a Eucharistic Conference at Saint Mary Church on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 4 and 5 at 7 p.m. with talks on prayer and spiritual growth.

Each evening’s talk will be preceded with music and conclude after one hour. Thursday’s talk is called, “Why do we have to pray”; Friday’s talk is “Is pride becoming an obstacle to your spiritual growth.”

Priests will be available afterward for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Father Villone will also preach at all Masses at both parishes on Saturday, Nov. 7 and Sunday, Nov. 8th on the power and blessing of adoring Jesus in the Eucharist.

The idea of setting aside a chapel for continuous adoration of Jesus started in May 1990 when then pastor of St. Boniface Church, Rev. Angelo Caserta, and a group of parishioners contacted the Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament, who have helped hundreds of parishes start a Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. Members of both parishes quickly filled every hour of the week; surprisingly, the night hours filled first.

On December 1, 1990, a Mass in St. Boniface Church was followed by a procession with the Eucharist to St. Clare Chapel in the basement below. “There our Lord remains, always welcoming all who seek him, 20 years later,” commented Father Caserta—although now retired, still lives in Piqua and continues his ministry there.

Organizing hundreds of volunteers to keep a constant vigil 168 hours a week, night and day, falls to several key volunteers.

“The love for this chapel can be seen in gradual changes over the years,” observed Father Martin Fox, pastor of both parishes. “The stations of the cross were put up by former pastor, Father Rick Unwin. A parishioner skilled in stained-glass designed the window near the altar and two more for the stairway. Others helped make the bathroom more accessible. Various works of art have found a home there over the years inspiring devotion to the Lord and zeal to imitate His saints,” Fox explained.

“Last year, one of our seniors in high school organized a group of his fellow Boy Scouts to re-paint and re-carpet the chapel. For those few days adoration moved upstairs into the main church,” Fox added.

“Our Lord said he would remain with us always—and he’s keeping that promise,” Father Caserta observed.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

'What am I going to do?' (Sunday homily)

You might have been wondering
what the Prophet Amos was describing in the first reading.

When he says, “diminish the ephah, add to the shekel,”
he’s talking about inflation.

When he says, “we will buy the lowly for silver,
and the poor for a pair of sandals”—
he is talking about how being poor
is also about not having power.

Fifty years ago, when I-75
was routed through Cincinnati,
it destroyed whole neighborhoods.
But it managed to avoid all the really nice ones.
Funny how that worked!

When Amos refers to being eager
for “the new moon” to be over,
he’s talking about how work and business
encroach on the Sabbath.

Nowadays, there is no Sabbath anymore—
no day of rest. We’ve destroyed it.

The funny thing is, we often take the attitude
that God is putting a burden on us by saying,
“keep holy the Sabbath.”
But remember: the Sabbath was given
to the Children of Israel, who were in slavery in Egypt.
A day of rest is a day of freedom.

One reason we have the commandment
to go to Mass on Sunday—
and it a commandment,
and it’s a mortal sin to miss Mass
if we don’t have a good reason—
Is so that we remember
who gives us freedom from slavery: Christ!

So what else is the Prophet Amos saying to us?

Helping the poor is not only charity--giving them help--
which we do through our St. Vincent de Paul Fund.
And I might mention here that we need more in that fund.

Helping the poor is also about social justice.
That means addressing the structure of society:
Having an economy that creates jobs and opportunity,
Having a path out of poverty?

St. Paul calls us to pray for those in authority.
We can do something Paul never could:
We can choose those people.
We have power over our elected officials, if we use it.
So what are we going to say
to the candidates for governor,
the legislature and for Congress?

Every one us has the right—and therefore, the duty—
to tell them where we stand and what we expect.
You have to be 18 to vote;
but every one of us has freedom of speech.

So those of us under 18,
why not write these folks a letter?
Go to a rally and meet them?

I was 16 when I worked for a candidate the first time.

What will we tell them?
How about, “what are you going to do to create jobs?”
How about, “will you defend the rights
of the weakest and smallest, including the poor,
the elderly, and the unborn child?”
I can think of a lot more questions, and so can you.

In the Gospel, the Lord talked about stewardship.
We’re stewards of this parish:
So in the bulletin you see a report on parish finances.
Everything we do in our parish, our school,
our religious education program, we do thanks to you.
I have the help of pastoral council and finance committee and many others,
in order for me to be a steward of this parish; a steward of your gifts.

In the next few weeks,
you’re going to be hearing more from your fellow parishioners
about some of the big ticket items
we need to address with our school, our church and grounds,
and about how we are going to address them.
Being stewards of this parish isn’t just my duty,
or the duty of some—but every one of us.

And as citizens, we’re stewards of our community
and our country.

We often ask, “what are they going to do”--
the pastor, the pastoral council, the city, those folks in D.C.

Instead, we might ask, “what am I going to do?
In the Name of Christ, in the Power of Christ,
For the Kingdom of Christ, what will I do?"